Exmoor ponies return to Cleadon Hills for winter 2022/23 - here's what you should and shouldn't do while on their patch
Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve was transformed into a picture-perfect wonderland in recent weeks, with sledgers and walkers enjoying the snowscapes.
And council chiefs are asking visitors to the beauty spot to keep the ponies in mind as the elegant equines they graze the land as part the management of the nature reserve.
With more people expected to visit over the holiday period, South Tyneside Council is reminding visitors to enjoy the ponies from a safe distance and to avoid providing them with additional food, as the land already provides them with all they need to stay fit and well.
Dog walkers are also encouraged to keep dogs under control and away from the ponies.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Transport and Neighbourhoods at South Tyneside Council, said: “We are delighted to see the ponies return to Cleadon Hills. They always prove to be a huge hit with visitors over the winter period and have become a welcome addition to what is a stunning landscape at any time of the year.
“With blizzard like conditions bringing snowfall to the site as well as more visitors, we would like to remind people visiting this winter that it is important that they adhere to the signage in place and do not feed the ponies.
“Feeding them will not only detract them from doing their job of eating the vegetation but cause them to approach people for food and become a nuisance. Any food given could also make them seriously ill.
“Cleadon Hills is a beautiful place with room for everyone, ponies and people alike. The ponies can still be enjoyed as they graze the land, but preferably from a distance.”
The ponies first came to Cleadon Hills in 2015, when a trial which ran from February to April found their efforts were proven to be more effective than grass cutting alone and had greater benefits for invertebrates, ground nesting birds and floral diversity.
The ponies return in late autumn each year and remain until spring.
Councillor Gibson added: “We would like to reassure people that the ponies get plenty of food from the land, even when it is covered in snow. The ponies are a hardy native breed with thick winter coats and are equipped to break through snow for food so that no supplementary feeding is necessary. As they can tackle a wide range of vegetation and conditions, they are the ideal breed for conservation grazing.”
Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), which needs to be protected. Exmoor ponies were introduced on the site in 2015 as part of a conservation grazing scheme to help preserve and protect the species-rich grassland for future generations to enjoy.
For further information about Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve visit South Tyneside Council’s website at www.southtyneside.gov.uk